The month of May at Lakenheath Fen is a pretty hectic month. The reserve is extremely busy with both birds and people. Lots of people have been coming to the reserve for a chance to hear and see the elusive golden orioles and some of them have been lucky, whether it is just a fleeting glimpse of one as it flits through the trees or a grand slam view of one through a telescope. We currently have two or three males and one female and the best time to hear and see them is early in the morning, though they can be quite vocal throughought the day if they weather is nice.
After our amazing count of sixty five hobbies at the beginning of May, numbers have gradually dropped off. However, We may still have as many as fifteen males hunting over the reserve on a daily basis. Some of our scarcer migrants have been showing themselves a bit better recently. A pair of spotted flycatchers seemed to have settled in the Trial Wood and turtle doves have been seen flying over the reserve frequently. There is even a nightingale holding territoy in the West Wood and can often be seen singing in the morning in competition with the orioles. There are not many other places in Britain where you can experience this spectacle!
The warm weather recently has prompted a lot of bird of prey activity. As well as the local marsh harriers, we have also had sightings of two much scarcer birds of prey in the Fens. On Sunday May 23rd, a red kite drifted over the West Wood and then over the heads of many people at the Joist Fen viewpoint. Today, (Tuesday May 25th), an osprey was seen flying over the washland. The bird was seen hovering and it may have even caught a fish. The bird stayed around until mid afternoon at least, and was seen by several people as it was bothered by the local crows whilst flying up and down the river.
Who knows what the next few days will bring!
Nightingale and golden oriole can be heard singing together on an early morning visit to the West Wood. A pair of spotted flycatchers were in Trial Wood 20 May, with turtle dove and garganey seen the same day. Up to 40 hobbies can be seen from the Joist Fen viewpoint. Sightings of bittern, bearded tit and marsh harrier are regular.
Hairy hawker, four-spot and broad-bodied chaser are now on the wing.
Three male golden orioles have been heard singing from the poplars in recent days. They seem to be favouring West Wood and Trial Wood although ofcouse they are as elusive as ever. Five bitterns were seen together in flight 9 May, with up to six birds still booming. The hobbies have been spectacular, with up to 60 birds present on some days. The highest counts are made on warmer days, usually in the late morning or early afternoon. These large gatherings will begin to disperse as the month progresses, leaving just the two or three pairs that nest on the reserve. Cranes are present but very elusive, however bearded tits are being seen more frequently now as they feed young. A turtle dove was seen 28 April, the first garden warbler was heard 30 April, and a nightingale was singing from West Wood the next day. Cuckoos are quite easy to hear and see around the reserve at the moment. Two spotted flycatchers were seen along the entrance track 10 May, a whimbrel flew over the same day.
A large red damselfly was seen 23 April, with common blue on the wing from1 May. Hairy dragonfly was new for the year 30 April.
As I look out of the office window on this May bank holiday, the wind is howling, its raining on and off and its not very warm. But hey, it's May, the most exciting month of the birdwatching year! May is the time when Lakenheath Fen is at its prime (that rhymes!), and as you may have seen from Steve's recent post, at least one golden oriole has returned to the reserve.
Now I'm not one to brag, but I was the first member of staff to hear an oriole this year. It was early in the morning on Wednesday 28th April. It was brilliant to hear it, but it wasn't until the next morning when I got to see it.... I walked down as far as the Trial wood (the middle wood), and could hear an oriole singing. Its such a beautiful song, and carries for a suprisingly long way. I stood staring at the densely leaved trees hoping that the bird would eventually become visible. The bird was playing hard to get though, and promptly stopped singing. However, I knew it was still nearby as it started calling. A lot of people are familiar with the male's fluty, lilting song but not so many people are familiar with the call. If you heard it and didn't know what it was, you wouldn't think it came from such a beautiful songster. The call is often called a "cat call". It is an almost jay like screech and to me sounds completely out of character for such a bird.
Anyhow, on with my story. eventually, the call started getting closer.Suddently, a dark shape flew through the woods. It turned out to be an oriole but to be honest, at the time it could have been anything! What happened next though was something that has only ever happened to me once before: I saw a male golden oriole singing out in the open. AWESOME! I spend most of the year talking about them when they are not here but to actually see them when they are is something very special. It took me three quarters of an hour to get a view like that but it was well worth it. Why not come down and try to see these beautiful birds for yourself?
Thanks for your time,
PS- There were 65 Hobbies over the reserve on Saturday May 1st and we may have as many as three male golden orioles on the reserve